The recent Israeli High Court decision to suspend payment of stipends to kollel dwellers cannot come as a huge shock to anyone. While the government has to kowtow to Chareidi parties and their demands, the High Court, as dictatorial and demagogic an institution as you'll ever find in a democracy, does not have to care one whit about sectoral politics. Free from any need to placate the populace their decisions can be made with impunity and, given that the court is staffed with secular anti-religious judges, as per the vision of former head judge Aharon Barak, it was a matter of time before this ruling came down.
Neither is the response of the Chareidi community leadership unexpected. Like spoiled children who are used to getting their own way, the idea that another group of unaccountable societal leaders has power over them and can decide their fates is both inconceivable and intolerable. It seems there are many in the Chareidi community who genuinely believe that the purpose of secular Zionism was to create a country dedicated to helping them build a society where no one has to work, and that taking away the stipends is an unacceptable disturbance to the natural order of the world.
I have long been of the opinion that kollels are necessary but only for the best and brightest, the future poskim of the Jewish people while the rest of our populace should be out and about in the labour market. Even writers such as Rav Yonasan Rosenblum have noted that the "learn, don't earn" philosophy is an innovation created after the war to restock the depleted Yeshivish population and that eventually it has to run its course. Unfortunately the same philosophy also elevated respect for its leadership into "Godol worship" and those gedolim have repeatedly said that "learn, don't earn" can never change. Since they're supposedly infallible, they are now in a trap. How can they say "well, times up, back to work everybody" if yesterday they were saying the opposite?
But what really bugs me is this attitude:
They think they'll keep cutting back on what the haredim supposedly take from them, but they don't realize that their raison d'etre is to sustain those who study Torah for a few pennies.
Really? The whole reason God created chilonim is to support them? Can they really believe that? Yese, this is a variation on the old line: Our learning supports the State, but please! There isn't a single kollel yungerleit who's sitting at his shtender right now and thinking to himself "Come on Yankl, shteig harder! The State is counting on you!"
In the end this will be a tempest in a teacup. The secular High Court may not care about what the Chareidim think but the government has to keep Shas and UTJ in the coalition. A way will be found to funnel that money back into the kollels so this whole confrontation is for nothing. But wouldn't it be nice if this was the kick in the arse that the Chareidi community needed to end "learn, don't earn" and rejoin productive society?